There are both pros and cons associated with freely available internet. When you consider momentous events such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall or even lesser events such as the inception of the Passenger Bill of Rights, one thing that each of these events have in common (regardless of their magnitude) is that they would not have been possible without the availability of the internet. Shirky (2008) describes various events that have occurred over the past few decades, often explaining how the average person or consumer was provided with a powerful voice to communicate with the corporations via the internet.
The internet allows for people to form relationships, or become networked together, with the click of a button. Common hobbies, goals, desires and even complaints can be sought and an ally can be easily located. With this unlimited access to communication comes a checks and balances system to ensure that organizations are behaving appropriately and ethically. If not, they are quickly brought into the spotlight and “justice is served.” Another benefit from the numerous networks that exist today is the transparency that it exists in the workplace (Shirky, 2008). Employees are able to work efficiently, communicating with the appropriate people at the appropriate time, and there is no need for management, or the “middle man” to be involved. Finally, networked workers are able to work from anywhere. Many can telecommute from home or another location and address their professional responsibilities.
Just as challenges surface as the result of any new technology, they will continue to arise from time to time. Yes, the internet gives a voice to terrorist groups, allowing them to assemble and communicate their messages of hate. Yes, it has driven the profits previously associated with many different professions much lower with its inexpensive options for advertising, communication, etc. Yes, it makes everyone “reachable” regardless of where they are. And yes, it has pushed many countries to the brink of considering various forms of censorship. While these challenges must be considered, it is important to remember that they are only “blips” in the big picture of our current wired world.
Wired access can quickly consume much of your day as a result of the ease of access. Madden and Jones (2008) point out that while there are many benefit of being “networked,” it also adds a layer of stress to employees. Are you truly ever off from work? With access to your email on your desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, etc. when is it too late late to assume an answer to your message? Professionals must take a step back and remain cognizant of the role the ability to be “networked” plays in their life.
The expectation for responsibility must be something that is considered in each scenario. While inappropriate messages and images are posted on the internet every second, if people can begin to take more ownership for their own personal actions in regards to the internet, the challenges will blossom into opportunities. I explain this to my middle school students in a similar fashion. I tell them that their access to the internet is a privilege, not a right in my building. If they abuse that privilege, their access will be taken away. Over the past seven years as a school administrator, I have only had to revoke that privilege three times. It’s too bad we couldn’t instill this rule for all of society!References
Madden, M. & Jones, S. (2008). Networked workers. PowerResearch Internet Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/09/24/networked-workers/
Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization. New York: Penguin Press.